The Albuquerque Journal issued an apology Thursday for running a nationally syndicated cartoon that has been assailed as a racist attack on Latino immigrants by critics.
"In hindsight, instead of generating debate, this cartoon only inflamed emotions. This was not the intent, and for that, the Journal apologizes," Editor Karen Moses wrote in the paper.
"Looking back, we erred," Moses said in an interview with the paper. She also pledged more scrutiny of editorial cartoons in the future.
The cartoon, drawn by Sean Delonas, shows a well-dressed white couple being mugged at gunpoint by three terrifying characters: a terrorist wrapped in dynamite and holding a bloody sword, a saggy-pants-wearing member of the Salvadoran gang MS-13, and a third, more generic-looking thug.
The bubble over the husband reads, "Now, Honey ... I believe they prefer to be called 'Dreamers' ... or future Democrats ..."
Roughly 50 people showed up to protest at the paper the following day, according to the Journal. And the paper received hundreds of angry calls from readers demanding an apology.
It also drew ire from state and national leaders. Sen. Tom Udall, D- N.M., decried the cartoon on Twitter, writing, "Words and images are still hateful and offensive, even when they appear in a cartoon."
In her apology, Moses said that she couldn't say what Delonas had in mind; however, her interpretation was that "on one level it appeared to us to be poking at President Trump's rhetoric by portraying a quaking Republican couple who were painting Dreamers with a broad, totally false, brush."
But Delonas, a former cartoonist at The New York Post, later contradicted Moses' take. In an interview with the Journal, he said the protesters' interpretation was right, adding that he believes unchecked illegal immigration has a negative impact on public safety.
"I'm not saying they can't come in; they have to come in legally, and they have to be vetted," Delonas said. "I think you can call them Dreamers, but I kind of agree with Trump that Americans have Dreams, too."
He also told The New York Times, "I've learned that MS-13 is purposely sending minors over here to commit crimes. I'm pretty sure that the cartels are using minors for a lot of their drug dealing."
And in a Facebook post, he shared his delight with the attention the cartoon has garnered. "Today, U.S. Senators and state lawmakers (all Democrats) from New Mexico took time out of their busy pay-to-play schedules to condemn me. Always enjoyed upsetting politicians, makes me feel like I'm back at the NY Post."
In 2009, Rupert Murdoch apologized for another cartoon by Delonas that ran in the Post. That was a drawing of two white police officers killing a chimpanzee that many readers interpreted as a racist attack on President Barack Obama.
The caption read: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."